The X Factor's boot-camp phase continued Thursday, when the contestants were assigned a partner with whom they were required to perform a duet of their choosing. One member of each pair would be eliminated. (The purpose of boot camp overall is to whittle the 120 or so contestants who made it through the first round of auditions down to just 24.)
"The point of this challenge is very simple, which is: Be better than your opponent," according to judge Simon Cowell, who called the challenge "a nightmare."
That was putting it mildly for a good number of the hopefuls, as singer after singer was shown forgetting the words to the songs they had chosen — including Freddie Combs and Jessie Bryant, who were paired together. More than a handful, including Latasha Lee Robinson and the charming Willie Jones, were left in tears.
The boot-camp episodes have felt more than a little rushed so far, with half a week's worth of competitions being summarized in two montage-heavy hours. (Thursday's edition found enough wiggle room, however, to include a brief segment of the judge's sampling the new Pepsi X, the "official drink of The X Factor.")
Read on to see which contestants were hindered by their partners, and which ones choked on their own.
-"Forget about friendships." That's the advice Cowell gave the competitors before the challenge even began, and nowhere was that more evident than with friends and roommates David Correy and Vino Alan, who performed Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On." "Vino is my brother, but today I need to crush the competition," Correy said before they took the stage. Afterwards, Alan was convinced he screwed up his part, but the judges in their deliberations had nothing but good things to say. Will it be enough to keep him in the competition?
-Competition is getting cutthroat. In several pairs, one of the singers was unhappy with the song their partner had chosen — including Paige Thomas and CeCe Frey, who duked it out in the first boot-camp challenge by both performing Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You." Thomas told her vocal coach before the performance that she felt like she "got played a little bit" by Frey, who made the decision that they would perform OneRepublic's "Secrets." The same thing happened with Tara Simon and Tate Stevens, who each picked songs their partners either didn't know (in the case of Stevens' partner, Willie Jones) or weren't able to use their strengths on (Simon's partner, Jennel Garcia). The judges picked up on this though, so will they side with the cutthroat competitors or the ones who got "hustled," in the words of judge L.A. Reid?
-Will there be any surprise upsets? Jillian Jensen, who was paired with Robbins, said before their performance: "When they called out our names together, my heart died a little. As a vocalist, she's absolutely fantastic." But it was Jensen who stepped up to the plate on Sugarland's "Stay" after Robbins blanked on the words less than two lines into the performance and burst into tears on stage.
"You can tell that the pressure is really getting to them," Demi Lovato told Cowell after their performance.
Somewhat of an understatement!
Find out which contestants got the ax and which made the cut when The X Factor returns with more boot-camp episodes next Wednesday at 8/7c.